Potentially Problematic Pandemic Peevishness

by | Apr 15, 2020 | 3 comments

I have a Miele dishwasher.

Who gives a shit you might be thinking. Or you could be thinking what a fool I am for spending so much money on a dishwasher (I would be in alignment with you on this).

Well, in my opinion, you should give a shit because of the silverware tray.

Keep reading. This is important!

The silverware tray is a beautiful sight to behold. An entire tray, at the top of the dishwasher, dedicated to silverware.

See the rows of little plastic bars sticking up. Those are for the stems of the spoons and forks and for the blade of the knives. They serve to hold each piece of silverware on its side and to keep it separate from its silverware siblings.

Keep reading. This is important!

It gets better. One can organize the silverware into separate platoons of spoons, forks, and knives.

I just heard what your brain said again – “who gives a shit.”

I do because of the silverware unloading process. With the silverware segregated into neat little platoons of spoons, forks, and knives, one (in this case me, the dishwasher platoon sergeant) can pull each platoon as a unit and plop them in the silverware drawer, all in one sweet, effective, and highly efficient move.

Precoronavirus, I was the silverware sergeant in charge of my platoons. I was demoted to silverware private when my daughter Maya came home from NYC. Maya is a supremely organized woman who has lists for her lists. She tracks her running, money, all of it, with data. Yet her organization falls apart when she hovers over the silverware tray of my Miele dishwasher. She not only doesn’t organize the silverware into separate platoons, but she will also put the ends of the spoons and forks in between the plastic pillars.

In an effort to maintain my emotional homeostasis, I asked her, in a very gentle way, if she could please put the silverware in my way, just for me. She said sure.

I must admit, she tried, but I just don’t think it is in her genetic engine to care about such things, since I have seen evidence of such indifference on her part to other arrangement tasks, like the drawer in her bathroom.

Anyway, these Covid drenched days have created a smoldering miasma of subterranean agitation that can bubble up to the surface when a small crack in the emotional ground occurs.

I found this happening each time that I pulled out the silverware tray and encountered my precious tray in disarray. I was getting more irritated than my usual small flash of annoyance.

This is exactly the kind of circumstance where the power of my meditation practice has been of such value. The skill of being able to shift into being an observer of my thoughts and emotions instead of staying on the mental stage wrapped up my little drama (all for an audience of one – me), effectively cuts the codependency cord we can have with our thoughts and emotions. It generates curiosity.

My curiosity allowed me to quickly realize that my baseline emotional state was lower than normal, and that the level of arousal generated by the disorganized, disheveled silverware tray in disarray was disproportionate to the damn problem.

So I resolved to hang up my silverware hang-up until we hang up this damn coronavirus thing. I also decided that if I want the damn silverware in platoons, I can do it myself.

It took a few rounds of practice but I am now good (mostly) with the the new normal of my silverware tray.

This little soap opera playing inside my quarantined skull got me to wondering – are other family members also feeling disproportionate arousal over other similarly small and inconsequential issues. I did a survey and the results came flooding in immediately.

Maya and Anne were in total alignment about what I do that irritates them. It came out as fast as a confession from someone loaded up on ketamine, a “truth” serum.

First was my “issue” with the silverware tray.

The second is the grease capture ring that I form around a frying pan on the stove when I fry something.

I had no idea this bothered them to the degree that it does. The towels keep things nice and clean and tidy and grease free. I know, I know, buy a damn grease screen to put on top. Done that. Still need the towels. Sure, a few towels along the way have caught on fire, but this seems a small price to pay for such a gleaming stovetop after frying something that splatters grease all over the place.

Regarding their mother, they were uniform on this too. My wife eats an apple everyday for lunch and she saves the core for the birds and animals in the front of our house. She wraps it in a paper towel in anticipation of finding the right moment to deliver it to the front yard, and while that decision making process is in gear she parks the apple wrapped in the paper towel in this bowl or on counter or damn near anywhere.

It has never really bothered me. Some other things do, but it seems prudent to defer discussion of those things at this time.

Anne, like me, loves a tidy room and bathroom. Her bathroom drawers are a dream come true for someone like me and her room sparkles with a spare, uncluttered smoothness, books in a row on her desk, and candles burning. She cleans it regularly, then leaves the cleaning supplies, garbage can, and laundry basket outside her door, sometimes for 2-3 days.

This one doesn’t bother me because it is a sign of things inside her room, but it bothers the other two ladies of the house.

So here is the thing. So many of us are trapped inside, all day and all night, with each other with hardly any breaks. Stir this fact into the simmering stew of Covid uncertainty bubbling all around us, and it is a perfect recipe for getting an unduly strong taste of what irritates us about each other, even those we love dearly.

The Pain x Resistance = Suffering formula wins again. Even little emotional pains, if resisted by complaining or resenting or not talking about it, can lead to suffering, for me, for you, and for those around us. No good. The opposite of that is Pain x Acceptance = Pain. My silverware tray issue causes me a little pain, but now it goes away quickly, like a small breeze that comes and goes.

I realize that these are small potatoes in the scheme of life, especially now, but it is the perfect opportunity to practice implementation of the Suffering formula on a smaller scale so it can get embedded in the brain for future use with larger issues. As Jocko Willink says, “Problem? Good.”

Best of all, we had a lot of fun pointing out the mountain of irritations we all had with each other. It was good to have a good laugh.


  1. Jeffrey Chipman

    LIke the one person on a 70 person conference call who has to make a comment about every topic.
    Great read…

  2. Roberta E Sonnino, MD, CPP

    Hi Mike:

    I never realized we had so much in common!!! 1) I have a Miele dishwasher (and so does my sister-in-law, and so did my family when we lived in Italy), and I LOVE it, it is worth the money. 2) I organize the silverware tray exactly the way you do, and for precisely the same reason – it makes emptying it a breeze! And a lot of the other stuff too….

    However, I am NOT as good at “letting go” as you seem to have become: good for you!

    Great to see you are doing well.

    Best wishes,


    • Michael Maddaus

      Hello Roberta – what a blast from the past! Ha – the dishwasher issue is a ubiquitous one:). Thanks for reading!


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